Not surprisingly, it starts with getting organized.
For once, Marie Kondo's life looks much like the rest of ours. She is stuck at home in Los Angeles with her husband and two small daughters, trying to get work done from a home office and, presumably, keeping a spectacularly tidy home. (It helps having a nanny.) Kondo, whose 2011 book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" transformed her last name into a verb that now refers to her particular method of decluttering, has a new book that just launched earlier this month, coauthored with organizational psychologist and Rice University professor Scott Sonenshein.
"Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life" was written "in a very different situation and different world" from what we're currently inhabiting, as Kondo told Washington Post reporter Jura Koncius, but that doesn't mean its principles cannot be applied today. Kondo shared some tips with Koncius and other reporters for how to live and work happily from home during this strange period of social isolation.
Do some deep thinking.
The advice I appreciated most was to reassess work-life balance. "We have this very rare opportunity to reflect on how we work and work itself and how we define it," Kondo said. Being at home gives us time and space to reflect on what we want to achieve professionally, what aspects of our job we enjoy doing most, and creating goals for ourselves. Sonenshein told the Financial Times that crises cause people to think long and hard about their lives: "People work on autopilot. It’s a time to ask whether work is bringing joy. People will drop a lot of initiatives that they fill their time with and reset what they want to do in their work and lives more broadly."
To help with this reset process, the pair suggests tidying one's work space thoroughly, in order to create a better working atmosphere. Sonenshein says this is very important: "Part of this is about experiencing joy but another gift is taking control of an environment that we don’t feel we have control over." Take this time to purge your bookshelves, rearrange furniture to let in more light, wash the windows, place a beautiful houseplant or flowers on your desk and a cozy rug on the floor. Make it a place you want to be.
Adopt small rituals.
Kondo recommends adopting small rituals that signify the start of the work day. When you're working from home, possibly distracted by children and housemates and all the chores piling up around you, it's important to create as much division between work time and private life as possible. Kondo says she marks the change of pace with meditation, a tuning fork, or spritzing the air with an aromatherapy spray. (Personally, I'm quite content to mark the start of the work day by brushing my teeth, putting on clothes, and pouring a second cup of coffee, but to each their own.)
Write down your goals.
Creating a daily checklist of what you hope to accomplish, and doing it together with a partner if your work or parenting overlap, is useful. Kondo told TIME,
"The act of writing [goals] out helps you visualize what you’re thinking, understand where you have tangled emotions and come to a resolution. It’s very important that we’re aware of family members and partners’ work schedules for the day so we can complement each other, support each other and align our priorities."
This list should include division of labor within the household, as well as the day's goals for mind, body, and soul, all of which are closely interconnected and must be tended. Kondo and Sonenshein recommend having some human connection, perhaps logging onto a conference call several minutes early so you can chat with coworkers or calling to check in on someone. Give yourself something small to look forward to, "a moment of quiet reflection, a call to someone you care for deeply, or even a piece of chocolate." Finish the day with a positive thought: "Identify one thing you did that made a positive impact on someone."